Judging a book by the cover?

Well, you can if Chandan Crasta’s designing it, I’d say!

In a recent discussion with an author friend, I realised there was a need for a suitable book cover design that draws in readers and yet is depictive of the subject. The chat inspired me to do a short 5-question interview with creative artist and book cover designer – Chandan Crasta, who was introduced to me by writer, Ashok Banker. Chandan has designed the covers of many of Ashok’s best-selling books (thanks Ashok, and thanks Chandan for your patience on this). Read on to know more about the gifted designer and his work.

1. What are the basics an artist must consider while designing book covers?

Image and type. A good tension between the two is very necessary. Also there should be layers to the cover design. The type should say something and the image should say another thing; on the whole, the cover should speak on many levels. Of course there are also composition, balance, texture and other considerations, but nothing is as important as careful image and type selection.

2. How much creativity are you allowed to explore – does the final word finally rest with the publishers and their opinion on what kind of cover makes a book sell?

What I love about book cover design is that there is a lot of freedom, you get to throw in your sketches and photographs.

You can get as creative as you want within the larger contextual framework (understandably). e.g for Richard Crasta’s Killing of an Author, I wanted to have a cover with nothing on the front except for a drop of blood perhaps and the blurb at the back. But I was not allowed to do that so I settled for an angel crying on a tombstone. I had no issues with this since it makes sense in perspective of the author, publisher and marketing.

The final word however, rests with the Art Director (AD), the publisher usually does not interfere. My art director at Penguin gave me a lot of freedom to do what I want, and I was allowed to experiment.

3. Do you read the book before you design? Who gives you a brief and how involved is the author?

Nope, have never read a full book when I have designed the cover – with the exception of my very first project!

The cover brief comes from the AD and I get a synopsis from the editor. Sometimes I get a cover design suggestion, which I never read!

The author’s input of course, is taken in right from the start and designs, once approved by the AD for feedback, are always sent to the author. Finally the AD gets to decide on what works and does not.

4. Which are some of the most memorable covers you have done and why?

My first book cover was done for a French author and it was reprint of a best seller. There were many covers for the same title and this being my first book, I read the book from start to finish! The final design was a sketch of a man chiseling himself out from a block. An aspect of the novel dealt around the protagonist searching for identity. This is one of the most memorable covers, because the author came back saying that of the all the covers done for the book, he liked the one I had done. He returned to France, taking the original sketch with him.

5. Tell us a bit about typography-based vs. graphics-based covers… which works better and why?

I personally love to use just type on my covers, but I can’t do it all the time. Type-based covers work for business books and a few literary covers, but not always. People connect with images rather easily, and so images always have an edge over type.

My extensive interview with Chandan is also to be featured in The Hindu in the coming week. Please read the tabloid on Saturday for more bytes from the gifted publication designer. To see more of his work, click here.
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    • Francis Xavier
    • September 21st, 2010

    Nice . Love the book covers. Keep it up Chandan 🙂

  1. Thanks for stopping by Francis. Do you have a blog too?

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